Marines Plan $50 Million Effort to Save Desert Tortoises

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Marine Corps is planning a $50 million effort to airlift desert tortoises out of prospective combat training grounds in Southern California.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Marine Corps is expected to begin airlifting 1,185 tortoises as mitigation for congressional approval to expand the Marine Cops’ Air Ground Combat Center by 165 square miles. By flying the tortoises away the animals won’t be crushed by military equipment.

Critics of the plan say moving the tortoises doesn’t help with conservation, it merely moves the population. They also say the stress from handling by humans can lead to predation, respiratory diseases and dehydration in the reptiles.

Base Environmental Planning Director Walter Christensen says they wouldn’t move ahead with the plan if they didn’t believe it was the best option for desert tortoises.